Kyle Farmer was a valuable supplementary menu item for the Minnesota Twins in 2023. However, he finds himself on the chopping block as the November 17th deadline to offer a contract to arbitration-eligible players looms.
When the Twins acquired him in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds almost a year ago, the club anticipated a potential starting role for the infielder. Carlos Correa looked destined to sign elsewhere, and top prospects such as Royce Lewis and Brooks Lee would still require more time in the oven before taking over as a primary shortstop option. Therefore, Farmer was a theoretical bridge until that was to happen.
But Correa found his way back to his corner locker at Target Field, relegated Farmer to be his backup and the backup plan across the infield. But now that the 33-year-old veteran is entering his final year of arbitration, and given the report from Dan Hayes of The Athletic outlining the club’s plan to decrease payroll in 2024, could we see the Twins cut Farmer from the menu?
Make no mistake, Farmer is still a valuable player and a great clubhouse presence. But he’s currently pegged to make almost $7 million if the team tenders him a contract. That’s a hefty addition to the tab for somebody who would figure to be a side dish if all goes well at dinner service.
But Farmer provides some much-needed qualities that competitive teams are craving. That includes the Twins.
His versatility was the first ingredient on the back of his label, and the Twins took advantage of it last year. Farmer played in 120 games, making 40 appearances or more at shortstop, second, and third base. Of course, all of Minnesota’s primary options at those spots present more upside. However, they all carry question marks due to their injury history.
Lewis is bound to get the lion’s share of playing time at the hot corner, but he missed significant time with an oblique strain last season, to say nothing of his two ACL repairs. Correa just had his worst professional season due to the nagging pain caused by plantar fasciitis. Jorge Polanco and Edouard Julien are penciled in atop the depth chart at second base, but Polanco has had no shortage of leg maladies in recent years, and he’s a prime trade candidate this off-season. Julien had an encouraging rookie campaign but was inconsistent defensively at second base.
Farmer represents a downgrade to each of those players if the Twins thrust him into a starting role. However, he’s a clear upgrade over most other backup options around the league. Farmer’s bat was roughly league-average (101 wRC+), slashing .256/.317/.408 with 11 home runs and 46 RBI across 369 plate appearances. That’s not particularly delectable on its surface, but it’s more than palatable for someone who sees inconsistent playing time and gets stirred around the diamond from game to game.
Farmer also stands out is against left-handed pitching. Throughout his career, he has hit a robust .288/.347/.478 (122 RC+) against southpaws, which made him appealing to the Twins in the first place last year. The problem is that the guys that find themselves ahead of Farmer on the depth chart also crush lefties, and they represent an established building block of the roster or far more upside against right-handed pitching.
So for $7 million, Farmer could eat up more of the club’s limited payroll while getting freezer burn from inconsistent playing time. If the club is looking to decrease their payroll as Hayes wrote, then Farmer could be the fat that gets trimmed.
The good news is that there is a chance the Twins won’t have to simply cut him loose for nothing, even if that remains a worst-case scenario possibility. The club could try to float Farmer in a trade this week, passing the ladle to another team who might have a clearer need for him and the payroll capacity to fit him in.
Bobby Nightengale suggested as much in a recent piece for the Star Tribune.
Farmer is versatile, hits lefties well and is a great clubhouse presence, but the Twins have Nick Gordon, who will be out of minor league options, available at a lower salary and they’re expected to add Class AAA utility man Austin Martin to their 40-man roster next week. If the Twins don’t trade Farmer at his projected salary, he’s a candidate to be released.
It’s going to be a difficult decision for the Twins, one way or another. Farmer is a solid addition to a well-rounded meal. But it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find room for him as the chefs try to move everything to a smaller plate.